Human Rights Ecuador http://www.humanrightsecuador.org Analysis of the human rights situation in Ecuador Mon, 21 Oct 2013 17:57:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Lawfare: Ecuador’s New Style of Governance? http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/10/21/lawfare-ecuadors-new-style-of-governance/#comments Mon, 21 Oct 2013 17:57:11 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3089

By: Manuela Lavinas Picq Ecuador has achieved what most Latin American societies have been dreaming of for decades: a stable leftist government. Yet things did not turn out the way social movements had imagined them. In particular, the list of people accused of terrorism expands each day ... ]]>

By: Manuela Lavinas Picq

Ecuador has achieved what most Latin American societies have been dreaming of for decades: a stable leftist government. Yet things did not turn out the way social movements had imagined them. In particular, the list of people accused of terrorism expands each day and things are about to worsen significantly.

Until now, state censorship targeted mostly individual dissidents. Since June, however, Decree 016 forbids social organizations to disagree with the government. An Ecuadorian delegation of human rights leaders is travelling to Washington DC on October 28 to testify on the criminalization of social protest at the 149th Session of Public Hearings at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ecuador’s legal crackdown against all forms of political dissidence is so systematic that lawfare, the abuse of law as a weapon of war, is becoming a new style of governance. It unveils a government that is less popular than it claims and that feels threatened by the escalating contestation of civil society.

The expanding list of terrorists

The government’s most outrageous use of lawfare is perhaps the 12-year sentence given to Pepe Acacho in August. Acacho, a Shuar leader from the Amazon and a Pachakutik deputy, was accused of sabotage and organized terrorism for calling a protest in 2009 against the government’s proposed Water Law. A clash with the police resulted in the death of a Shuar professor, Bosco Wizuma, which the government blamed on Acacho and another Shuar leader, Pedro Mashiant. The court forged evidence and invented awitness in an abusive judicial process designed to paralyze indigenous contestation against official natural resource policy.

Next in line is another Pachakutik deputy who also proved too vocal for the government’s taste. Cléver Jiménez, who has criticized the government’s privatization of natural resources and denounced major corruption scandals, was accused of perjury and sentenced to 18 months in prison along with two other activists, Carlos Figueroa (General Secretary of Ecuador’s Federation of Medical Doctors) and Fernando Villavicencio (a former labor union leader and author of the 2013 released book Ecuador: Made in China). Their crime was to publicly criticize the President’s response to the police protests of September 30 2010.

The trial repeatedly broke legal procedures, notably ignoring Jiménez’s political  as a member of Congress (Article 128 of the Constitution). Supreme Court Judge Lucy Blacio bypassed constitutional procedures to rule in favor of the President. In April, she sentenced the defendants to 18 months in prison alleging violation of Article 494 of Ecuador’s penal code, which vaguely states that accusations or insults without factual basis can be punished by three months to three years in prison. In what has become all too frequent, arbitrary legal procedures were used to intimidate individual leaders and discourage further political opposition.

Intense threats seem to have inspired, more than deterred, Deputy Jiménez. He continues to decry the legal and financial inconsistencies of Correa’s administration with careful detail. When he stands on the Congress’s floor denouncing the illegality of the government’s proposed Mining Law, he rigorously refers to the dozen Constitutional articles being breached by Correa’s extractive policies. Most recently, he made public an insurance scheme within the government, irregularities in oil deals with China, and the illegal construction of roads on intangible areas within the Yasuni ITT Reserve. For many, the legal harassment of a member of the legislative branch like Jiménez encapsulates the widespread crackdown  by the government on all forms of opposition.

There are many more legal cases against people who fail to bend to the will of Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s presidential Summus Pontifex. The Prosecutor’s Office hired biologist Hugo Loza Paredes in 2010 only to accuse him of perjury two years later because his final report showed that two oilfields in the Palo Azul case were not geologically connected–as the government argued. He exposed a $5 billion (USD) corruptioncase (100 million oil barrels) involving the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras and many governmental officials, not least Ecuador’s current Attorney General (and former Minister of Oil and Mines), Galo Chiriboga. Loza’s expert report shows that the artificial unification of two independent oilfields in the Amazon province of Orellana permitted years of illegal oil ‘leakage’ from a state-owned oil block to benefit multinational oil companies. Correa’s government could sue Petrobras and other private parties to recover over $ 5 billion (USD) in stolen oil, which would be close to what the government hopes to get from the controversial drilling in the Yasuni ITT reserve. Instead, the government is suing its own messenger.

Legal intimidation has also been used to demobilize historically rebellious sectors such as students and teachers. Earlier this year, the criminal prosecution of a group of young high school students for protesting against decision by the Ministry of Education shocked the country.

In the criminal case against the ‘Cotopaxi Seven,’ dozens of charges were so opaque that the accused were not sure how to argue their own defense. In 2010, a university dean, two professors and staff gathered with provincial legislators in the Governor’s Office to demand funds for education. After almost three years of criminal prosecution, the only violation the judge could charge them with was invading a public building (Article 155 of the Constitution), yet this flimsy argument proved enough to convict them to one year in prison.

Legal intimidation is systematic in Ecuador and charges of terrorism have become commonplace. The international media has denounced legal abuses and international human rights watchdogs repeatedlywarned against censorship. In Quito, the press watchdog FUNDAMEDIOS created a platform to defend people persecuted for their political views. It handled a list with over 30 cases to Ecuador’s representative to the Organization of American States, Pedro Vuskovic, denouncing political repression.

But instead of relenting in the face of criticism, resort to lawfare is intensifying.

Decree 016: censoring social organizations

What started as the judicial persecution of individuals is evolving into a broader institutional surveillance of all social organizations. Decree 016 is a bit like a Big Brother of civil society, monitoring their internal functioning and banning them from political life.

The controversial decree requires social organizations to register with the state, to meet a specific list of requisites, and publicly justify their budgets to receive legal recognition.  In addition to this administrative surveillance, the decree forbids political partisanship. Social organizations that participate in politics or disrupt the public order automatically become illicit.

Decree 016 impedes neighborhood associations from taking political stands on education and powerful national organizations from partaking in electoral debates. Labor unions, for instance, are now prohibited from making public political pronouncements or supporting political candidates.

According to this decree, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) is now forbidden to work with its own political branch, the Pachakutik political party. Had such a decree existed in the 1990s, the historical uprisings that toppled corrupt governments and achieved the consolidation of a plurinational state would not have been possible. And Pachakutik, one of world’s most influential indigenous parties, would not exist.

Decree 016 is just a more elaborate attempt at paralyzing opposition. After criminalizing social protest and silencing the media, now Ecuador’s government seeks to demobilize political awareness by pushing social organizations into illegality. It seriously threatens Ecuador’s civil society. Yet it also indicates that President Correa is taking extreme measures to counter political awareness among his own constituency.

Lawfare as governance

The citizenry is fighting back, learning the legal ropes to trip up the government at its own game. In April, the highland indigenous organization ECUARUNARI elected lawyer Carlos Pérez Guartambel as its president, and in the process increased legal pressure on the government. In July, he sued the government for failing to consult indigenous peoples over the Mining Law; for violating constitutional rights of nature; and now for the unconstitutionality of Decree 016.

Two more charges of unconstitutionality have been advanced by Pachakutik legislator Lourdes Tibán and right-wing lawyers from FUNDAMEDIOS. They all accuse the government of using Decree 016 to infringe upon the constitutional right of social organizations to participate in public policy debates (Article 96).

For César Montufar, a well-known scholar and opposition politician, Decree 016 reveals Correa to be a leader who is (rightly) terrified by a dynamic civil society that challenges his own monologues of power. Dynamic mobilizations are spreading across social sectors. Yet civil society is inevitably at a disadvantage.

People who challenge the government risk becoming mired in lengthy, arbitrary trials staged by a judicial apparatus that is not only immensely more powerful, but also controlled by the executive branch. Cases of terrorism repeatedly linger in court for lack of evidence and judicial procedures are ignored with total impunity. Nepotism and clientelism are rampant, as symbolized by the president’s recent admission that Attorney General Chiriboga is a ‘distant relative.’

Furthermore, President Correa announced last month that he would try to push for indefinite reelection for all elected officials. Abolishing term limits and the principle of alteration obviously would simplify the government’s various strategies to silence political opposition. After decrying the “shameless lies” of reports by of the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, Ecuador’s government reiteratedthreats of leaving the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

The Catholic Church created the Inquisition to censor dissidence. It declared Luther a heretic for not submitting to the authority of Roman Emperor (whom Luther denounced as unethical). Today, Ecuador’s government is employing similar legal tools to counter modern day political heresies. And those who do not submit to the authority of the Emperor are accused of  “terrorism” (the new heresy) because they too think their Pontific leader is unethical.

The Correa government uses lawfare strategically, and its victims are not limited to just the people being sued. The tactic consists in punishing a few dissenters to deter broader contestation, to instigate fear across society, and to mislead political opinion at large. All too frequently, intimidation works by intimidating people into silence, thus impoverishing political debate.

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Why Ecuador’s president has failed the country over Yasuní-ITT http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/09/18/why-ecuadors-president-has-failed-the-country-over-yasuni-itt/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 16:12:27 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3084

Ecuador has had the opportunity to bring about environmental change, but this has been thwarted. In mid-August, a plan to leave oil in the ground in one part of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest was dismissed by President Rafael Correa. He argued that the world has failed Ecuador by contributing ... ]]>

Ecuador has had the opportunity to bring about environmental change, but this has been thwarted. In mid-August, a plan to leave oil in the ground in one part of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest was dismissed by President Rafael Correa. He argued that the world has failed Ecuador by contributing little of the money the government had hoped to raise, and said the oil revenues would be used to end poverty.

We always knew it would be difficult to cut through the oil interests. Indeed, doubts had been voiced since 2007, when the Yasuní-ITT initiative was proposed. In an economy addicted to black gold, people were baffled by this proposal not to drill for the 850m barrels of heavy oil – 20% of Ecuador’s reserves – in Yasuní national park. Crazy though the idea seemed, however, it attracted support and grew stronger.

The Yasuní initiative emerged from civil society, even before Correa became a presidential candidate in 2006. Its evolution was influenced by the Chevron Texaco disasters in the northern Amazon, and by resistance from the community of Sarayaku.

Yasuní-ITT would prevent 410m tonnes of CO2 emissions. In return, Ecuador expected a financial contribution from the international community, taking into account the principle of shared but differentiated responsibilities.

The idea was that all peoples of the world profoundly changed their relationship with nature by contributing to the establishment of a new global legal institution that transcended national and private interests. It would be a custodian for the atmosphere and biological diversity, areas in which all humanity has a stake. Most importantly, it would protect the land and lives of the Tagaeri and Taromenane indigenous peoples who live in voluntary isolation.

The proposal has followed a convoluted path since becoming part of official political discussions. There were steps forward and back, successes and contradictions, approval and controversies. Interestingly, the idea took root even though some people considered it far-fetched. After its official launch, support grew quickly.

Yet plan B – to drill in the park if contributions were not met – has long loomed large, and, after Correa’s announcement, the proposal is on the brink of destruction. He blames the international community for not contributing the $350m (£225m) a year required to fund the innovative environmental plan.

Rather than blame the international community, which has supported the initiative despite the Ecuadorian government’s inconsistencies, coherent and consistent government action was needed to support plan A – not to drill for oil instead. It is up to Correa to overcome the problems that he helped cause. He should have stayed committed to the initiative.

The activities linked to oil exploration and exploitation at the edges of ITT should not have been permitted either. Moreover, the government could have put a stop to other threats to Yasuní – deforestation, illegal logging, settling, illegal tourism – and prohibited the roads and waterways from Manta to Manaus, designed for commodity exports to Asia. Similar policies could be pursued in Peru’s neighbouring oil fields. This area is also home to peoples who have had no contact with the outside world.

Oil production in Yasuní should take place only upon application by the president, and only on the basis of a declaration of national interest by the national assembly. Now a broad movement is preparing the ground for a referendum. Only then will the Ecuadorian people have the last word – to leave the oil in the soil, even without money from abroad.

Yasuní-ITT can still be achieved by civil society in Ecuador and around the world. We need other Yasunís too.

Alberto Acosta is an Ecuadorian economist, professor and researcher at Flasco-Ecuador. He is the former minister for energy and mining (2007) and ex-president of the assembly charged with drawing up the constitution (2007-2008) and ran for president (2012-13).

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The Ethics Tribunal will ensure human rights http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/09/09/the-ethics-tribunal-will-be-attentive-to-human-rights/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 20:56:28 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3076

Elsie Moge, Ethical Tribunal member, said that the aim of this organization is to monitor human rights in the country are met. “We see many unconstitutional in processing or judgment has been rendered against human rights or social activists, whose background the criminalization of social ... ]]>

Elsie Moge, Ethical Tribunal member, said that the aim of this organization is to monitor human rights in the country are met. “We see many unconstitutional in processing or judgment has been rendered against human rights or social activists, whose background the criminalization of social protest”.

On the same subject, the former assemblyman Enrique Herrería, cited several cases where they have not been allowed to exercise their rights to defendants, as Mery Zamora, Pepe Acacho, Clever Jimenez, among others.

Watch the full interview here

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Ministry of Environment announced media requirements to enter to the Yasuní Park http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/09/02/ministry-of-environment-announced-media-requirements-to-enter-to-the-yasuni-park/ http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/09/02/ministry-of-environment-announced-media-requirements-to-enter-to-the-yasuni-park/#comments Mon, 02 Sep 2013 21:33:25 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3071

Media who wish to enter the National Park Yasuní must first request authorization from the Ministry of Environment in the province of Orellana . According to a statement of this Secretariat , the goal is ” the need to protect the place ” where the government ... ]]>

Media who wish to enter the National Park Yasuní must first request authorization from the Ministry of Environment in the province of Orellana .

According to a statement of this Secretariat , the goal is ” the need to protect the place ” where the government seeks to exploit oil in one thousandth of the reserve, ” give all facilities for visiting journalists and to inform the adequately citizenship ” .

Even ensures that any request for access must be ” coordinated and guided by environmental specialists in the area, who will be able to better guide their journey ” .

In a statement this evening through Friday , the Minister of Environment , Lorena Tapia Nunez stated that compliance with the requirements for authorization set of fieldwork in the Yasuni National Park applies ” only when it is films ” and that” there is a provision for journalists ” .

Add Tapia that, as stated in the Unified Text of Secondary Environmental Legislation ( TULAS ) , the aforementioned legislation applies to all protected areas of Ecuador , including in the Yasuni National Park .

Notes that these requirements are specified in Article 3 of Ministerial number 136 dated August 5, 2011 , by which reforms the ordinal VII , Article 11 of Book IX of TULAS , which provides the necessary conditions for the media made ​​documentary filmmaking or audiovisual material .

Requirements to comply

Initially MAE release sent Friday morning , states that to authorize the Park entrance means for filming must be met : “Cheque Guarantee $ 500, kind of script for the story and / or film ; title of the film or story ; schedule of activities , copies of identity cards of those who make up the committee , and date of delivery of the results of filming and / or report ( it should be stressed that the same should be given to the MFA before of broadcasting publicly) . “

This provision of the Ministry of Environment, coincides with the invitation to media Magali Pachakutik Assemblywoman for scheduled visits to places and communities that would be affected if the prediction is fulfilled presidential exploit the block 31 and 43 of ITT ( Ishpingo , Tambococha and Tiputini ) .

The visit is scheduled for the 4th of September.

According to Assemblyman representing the province of Orellana , the visit to the park is to hear directly the National Park and the area of ​​operation and ” understand the environmental, social , cultural and tourist area from peoples perspectica and indigenous nationalities inhabiting the territory of biodiversity. “

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Students will lose their quota if they protest against exploitation of the Yasuni-ITT http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/09/02/students-will-lose-their-quota-if-they-protest-against-exploitation-of-the-yasuni-itt/ http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/09/02/students-will-lose-their-quota-if-they-protest-against-exploitation-of-the-yasuni-itt/#comments Mon, 02 Sep 2013 21:26:37 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3066

Education Minister , Augusto Espinosa , said on monday that he agreed with the pronouncement of President Rafael Correa on the withdrawal of quota if students protest against the exploitation of the Yasuni -ITT . Espinosa , told in a press conference : “I´m absolutely agree ... ]]>

Education Minister , Augusto Espinosa , said on monday that he agreed with the pronouncement of President Rafael Correa on the withdrawal of quota if students protest against the exploitation of the Yasuni -ITT .

Espinosa , told in a press conference : “I´m absolutely agree that our obligation as a government is to guarantee the safety of children and youth. Under no circumstances we will expose them to be used as cannon fodder Popular Democratic Movement ( MPD ) in which the leaders put forward to the students and they get after them .

We are talking with parents , we are inviting them to meetings from today to assume a responsibility for the care of children and young people, primarily those in high school who are often exposed to this kind of abuse of any political movement .

If a student comes out of the setting outside of school hours , immediately set up a process which will investigate the situation and the young shall have their quota of the establishment where it is assigned. If he commits acts of vandalism , that’s no longer an issue of the Ministry , will have to abide by the laws that are in place . It is a request to parents, to work together for their children to be exposed to any kind of insecurity , “said the minister.

]]> http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/09/02/students-will-lose-their-quota-if-they-protest-against-exploitation-of-the-yasuni-itt/feed/ 0 Protests in Ecuador against President Rafael Correa’s decision to open Yasuní National Park to oil exploitation http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/29/protests-in-ecuador-against-president-rafael-correas-decision-to-open-yasuni-national-park-to-oil-exploitation/ http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/29/protests-in-ecuador-against-president-rafael-correas-decision-to-open-yasuni-national-park-to-oil-exploitation/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 15:09:19 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3057

Following Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other nations in Latin America, Ecuador has become the latest country in the region to face street protests, after President Rafael Correa made the unpopular decision to allow oil drilling in a pristine Amazon reserve. The decision sparked protests that began last Thursday ... ]]>

Following Brazil, Argentina, Chile and other nations in Latin America, Ecuador has become the latest country in the region to face street protests, after President Rafael Correa made the unpopular decision to allow oil drilling in a pristine Amazon reserve. The decision sparked protests that began last Thursday and continued over the weekend and on Monday.

The government announcement about the Yasuní national park, located in the eastern part of the country, sparked the protest, which began on social media and ended up sending thousands of people into the streets demanding a referendum on the issue.

Humberto Cholango, the president of the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas (Indigenous Nationalities Confederation, or Conaie), called the government “a failure” for ending the state’s protection of the park. “It is now every Ecuadorian’s right to defend Yasuní and the indigenous people who call it home,” he said.

The protesters concentrated in front of a government building, where they were joined by a group of government sympathizers. The police feared a collision between both groups, but that did not take place.

Minister for Environment Lorena Tapia responded to the protests by assuring that every measure will be taken to warrant minimal environmental impact.

“The park will stay as it is, as much as the government can do. We will use the best technology and the strictest control,” Tapia said on the Ecuadorian TV channel Gama TV.

President Correa said he was disappointed he had to make the decision to drill inside Yasuní. “The world has failed us,” he said in his announcement about the drilling. He said the international community had not contributed enough to offset the cost of a drilling ban in the park, which led him to make his decision.

Ecuador had expected $3.6 billion in funding from international donors to preserve the park, of which it received only $13.3 million, less than half of 1 percent of the expected amount. According to Correa, until the international community provides the additional funding, drilling in the park is necessary to develop Ecuador’s economy.

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The new oil reality for Yasuní http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/26/the-new-oil-reality-for-yasuni/ http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/26/the-new-oil-reality-for-yasuni/#comments Mon, 26 Aug 2013 14:35:30 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3050

Eight oil concessions cover Yasuní National Park and the Waorani Ethnic Reserve. Moreover, across the border in Peru is a continuous mass of 20 oil concessions. This “oil landscape” has changed dramatically over the past several months. Here is a block-by-block update on the recent ... ]]>

Eight oil concessions cover Yasuní National Park and the Waorani Ethnic Reserve. Moreover, across the border in Peru is a continuous mass of 20 oil concessions. This “oil landscape” has changed dramatically over the past several months. Here is a block-by-block update on the recent changes and prospects for the future.

Block 15 - The most dramatic recent change in the oil landscape has occurred in Block 15. On May 15, the government of Ecuador canceled Occidental’s contract as operator of Block 15. In essence, Ecuador kicked an American oil company out of the country; a very bold move that took many by surprise. Ecuador argues that Oxy violated the terms of the contract when the company sold 40% of the block in 2000 to another company without authorization from the government.

This move was especially striking due to the fact that Block 15 is the most productive block in Ecuador. In 2005, nearly 100,000 barrels a day were extracted from Block 15, nearly one-fifth of the production in the entire country. Further, Block 15 contains the Eden-Yuturi oil field, the highest producing field in Ecuador (66,000 barrels a day).

Petroecuador, the state oil company, immediately took over Block 15. There was much speculation that Petroecuador would quickly form a partnership with another company in order to effectively exploit the block. State oil companies from Brazil (Petrobras), Colombia (Ecopetrol), Chile (Enap), China (Sinopec) and Malaysia (Petronas), along with Spain’s Repsol YPF have all expressed interest in operating Block 15. However, it now appears as if Petroecuador will remain the sole operator of Block 15 until at least January 2007.

Block 31 - In April 2006, Petrobras announced that it had made significant changes to its project in Block 31. Most importantly, the company will not build an access road or processing facility within Yasuní National Park; instead Petrobras plans to access the two drilling platforms by helicopter and build the processing facility a few kilometers outside the park. These changes came after intense opposition from environmental and scientific groups to the construction of a road and processing facility within a national park. The Ecuadorian Environment Ministry listened to this opposition and essentially forced Petrobras to redesign the project. The environmental consulting firm Entrix is now preparing the new environmental impact studies.

The Waorani leadership, however, continues to make clear that they oppose any new oil development by Petrobras, roadless or not, on their ancestral territory. In May, the President and Vice President of ONHAE, and the President of AMWAE, all attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. During the meetings, the Waorani leaders called on Petrobras to leave its territory.

Blocks 14 and 17- In March 2006, Andes Petroleum Company finalized its purchase of Encana’s Blocks 14 and 17. The purchase also included Encana’s leading stake in the OCP pipeline. Andes Petroleum is a partnership between two Chinese state oil companies, CNPC and Sinopec. Andes Petroleum stated that it plans to invest $200 million in exploration and development. Thus, there is much concern about increased levels of seismic testing in the two blocks. Particular concern centers on the fate of Block 17; much of this block overlaps with territory known to be used by an indigenous group living in voluntary isolation known as the Taromenane. The government is soon expected to finalize the borders of the Intangible Zone, an area designed to protect the Taromenane. All oil activities within this zone will be prohibited. Much of Block 17 is overlapped by this Intangible Zone.

ITT Block - The ITT Block (named after the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil fields) is the elephant in the room. The largest known oil reserves in Ecuador reside under the ITT block—over 900 million barrels. This accounts for nearly ¼ of Ecuador’s total reserves. Thus, there is intense political and economic pressure to develop this block even though it is located with a nearly pristine part of Yasuni National Park. The government has indicated that it in order to exploit the block it will likely form a partnership with another state company, thus making Brazil’s Petrobras and China’s Sinopec leading candidates. Petroecuador is expected to name its partner at any moment now.

Read more: http://www.sosyasuni.org/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44:t

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Ecuador: Clampdown on Civil Society http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/14/ecuador-clampdown-on-civil-society/ http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/14/ecuador-clampdown-on-civil-society/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 23:55:59 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3043

Ecuador should revoke a presidential decree that grants far-reaching powers to the government to oversee and dissolve nongovernmental organizations, Human Rights Watch said today. On June 4, 2013, President Rafael Correa adopted a decree that creates new procedures for Ecuadorean nongovernmental organizations to obtain legal status and ... ]]>

Ecuador should revoke a presidential decree that grants far-reaching powers to the government to oversee and dissolve nongovernmental organizations, Human Rights Watch said today.

On June 4, 2013, President Rafael Correa adopted a decree that creates new procedures for Ecuadorean nongovernmental organizations to obtain legal status and requires international organizations to undergo a screening process to seek permission to work in Ecuador. The decree also grants the government broad powers to intervene in groups’ operations. It gives the government authority, for example, to dissolve Ecuadorean groups for “compromis[ing] public peace.”

“The Correa administration has damaged free speech, expending a lot of its energy focusing on the media, and now it’s trying to trample on independent groups,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Officials can now essentially decide what groups may say or do, seriously undermining their role as a check on the government.”

Correa presented a draft proposal of a similar decree in December 2010, but it was shelved after criticism from local and international groups.

Under the decree, the authorities are creating an electronic Unified System of Information of Social Groups, which would store documentation from organizations. Ecuadorean organizations are required to file a series of documents to obtain legal status and approval of their by-laws. Groups have one year from the publication of the decree on June 20 to present the required paperwork.

Government officials from ministries related to the work done by the group – for example, the Health Ministry if the group works on health-related topics – review the documentation and have the authority to grant or deny the group legal status. Once they obtain legal status, groups must inform authorities when they select directors and a legal representative and if they add or remove members. They must also provide the government with information about projects with international funding, and get government authorization to revise their by-laws.

The decree limits groups’ ability to choose who can be a member or participant, undermining their right to free assembly, Human Rights Watch said. The decree imposes on Ecuadorean groups an obligation to respect the “right” of anyone who “due to their place of residency or having a specific labor, institutional, union, occupational, or professional qualification directly related to the objective or nature and/or purposes of the organization, is interested in participating in it.” Groups with certain territorial coverage or those that are “the only ones in their location” may not reject people with a “legitimate interest” in participating.

The government officials who grant a group legal status have broad monitoring powers to make sure that it only carries out ‘authorized’ work. Officials may dissolve a group if they consider the organization is “mov[ing] away from the objectives for which it was created,” or if it is involved in activities that “compromise public peace” or “interfere with public policies that undermine national or external security of the state.”

International groups seeking to work in Ecuador must request permission from the Technical Secretariat of International Cooperation, providing information on the “purposes and work they wish to carry out in the country.” They have to provide documents that “demonstrate [their] legal existence,” including their by-laws in Spanish. The government will then ask Ecuadorean embassies and consulates in countries where the international group operates for information about the “legality, solvency, and seriousness” of the organization. Based on this information, it will decide whether to sign an agreement with the international group to authorize it to work in Ecuador.

The decree also imposes vaguely defined prohibitions on international groups – for instance, they are not allowed to conduct activities that “undermine security and public peace.” It also allows government officials to monitor a group’s activities “to ensure the true fulfillment of its obligations” and to revoke the international agreement if they decide the group violates it.

On August 7, a lower court judge rejected a constitutional challenge filed by Fundamedios, an organization that monitors freedom of expression, against the decree. The group has filed an appeal, which remains pending before the courts.

Under international law, however, as part of their duty to promote and protect human rights, governments must ensure that human rights defenders are allowed to pursue their activities without reprisals, threats, intimidation, harassment, discrimination, or unnecessary legal obstacles. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights held in 2003 that “[r]espect for human rights in a democratic state depends largely on human rights defenders enjoying effective and adequate guarantees so as to freely go about their activities, and it is advisable to pay special attention to those actions that limit or hinder the work of human rights defenders.”

The rights to freedom of expression and association may be subject to limitations, but the limitations must adhere to strict standards so that they do not improperly impede the exercise of those rights. Any restrictions should be “prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society, and proportionate to the aim pursued” and should not “harm the principles of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness.”

Article 16 of the American Convention on Human Rights states that the right of freedom of association “shall be subject only to such restrictions established by law as may be necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, public safety or public order, or to protect public health or morals or the rights and freedoms of others.”

In 2012, the UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association has called on countries to ensure that these rights “are enjoyed by everyone and any registered or unregistered entities” and that no one is subject to “harassment, persecution, intimidation or reprisals” for exercising them. Moreover, the rapporteur has stated that, “[s]uspension or involuntary dissolution of associations should be sanctioned by an impartial and independent court in case of a clear and imminent danger resulting in a flagrant violation of domestic laws, in compliance with international human rights law.”

Human Rights Watch has documented similar restrictions in other countries. For example, in December 2012, the government of Russia adopted a law that bans Russian nongovernmental organizations that either engage in “political” activities and receive funding emanating from the US, or engage in activities that threaten Russia’s interests.

In Bahrain, a law prohibits nongovernmental organizations from “engaging in politics” and lets authorities dissolve organizations more or less at will. In Uganda, a Board for Nongovernmental Organizations, overseen by the Internal Affairs Ministry, has the authority to grant or refuse registration and to revoke registration if the board decides it is “in the public interest.” In Venezuela, a 2010 law blocks organizations that “defend political rights” or “monitor the performance of public bodies” from receiving international funds. It imposes fines and sanctions on organizations that receive such funds, and allows the government to expel foreigners who “offend institutions of the state, top officials or attack the exercise of sovereignty.”

“Instead of adopting reasonable measures to facilitate the work of nongovernmental organizations, the Correa administration is following the lead of countries such as Russia, Bahrain, Uganda, and Venezuela, which have imposed unjustified restrictions that violate fundamental rights and limit spaces that are critical to democratic society,” Vivanco said.

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Pepe Acacho questioned ruling but will not flee http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/13/pepe-acacho-questioned-ruling-but-will-not-flee/ http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/13/pepe-acacho-questioned-ruling-but-will-not-flee/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 17:23:07 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3038

Assemblyman Pachakutik, Pepe Acacho, likened the twelve-year sentence of imprisonment he received from the Provincial Court of Morona Santiago, with the same pain he felt over the death of his mother, on August 4. He said he is willing to face prison, despite considering it was ... ]]>

Assemblyman Pachakutik, Pepe Acacho, likened the twelve-year sentence of imprisonment he received from the Provincial Court of Morona Santiago, with the same pain he felt over the death of his mother, on August 4.

He said he is willing to face prison, despite considering it was a political trial tests lacked accurate to sanction, he said.

July Sarango Acacho defense attorney, said the motion for clarification and expansion and was presented at the Court of Macas and then read the statement issued Friday night, an analysis is misleading, biased, in the that used versions of state officials to indict and sentence along with the Minister of Provincial Government Morona, Pedro Masiant.

Acacho added: “This is independent justice, these are the ones who took the test to say that I was guilty of organized terrorism. The terrorists killed Lieutenant Maldonado, I have not killed anyone, I am guilty of defending my people, “he said.

He said he was not interested in applying for political asylum and was willing to take the jail. ”They want to intimidate, silence, silence and hope that when we are in prison, the government can loot all the gold, copper and petroleum, which are within the Amazon peoples,” he said.

He said the confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (Cofenaie) and of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) have shown support and unity in the case, that the solidarity and condemnation have been extensive, but that has not been thought a demonstration against the ruling.

“We are in total helplessness and mocked the effective protection of legal rights,” said Sarango.

His lawyer in Macas, Ulbio Cardenas said the clarification provided means that the room will have to analyze the order, so that the sentence can be considered that is not firm, then interpose the invalidity appeals and the judgment.

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36 organizations sent a letter to President Correa http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/09/36-organizations-sent-a-letter-to-president-correa/ http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/2013/08/09/36-organizations-sent-a-letter-to-president-correa/#comments Fri, 09 Aug 2013 18:27:11 +0000 admin http://www.humanrightsecuador.org/?p=3025

36 organizations members of International Freedom of Expression Exchange, IFEX sent, on July 31, 2013, a letter to President Rafael Correa, demanding that the Ecuadorian government ask the Court of Human Rights (CIDH for its acronym in spanish) an advisory opinion on the compatibility of the ... ]]>

36 organizations members of International Freedom of Expression Exchange, IFEX sent, on July 31, 2013, a letter to President Rafael Correa, demanding that the Ecuadorian government ask the Court of Human Rights (CIDH for its acronym in spanish) an advisory opinion on the compatibility of the recently passed Communications Law, the standards developed under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.

The organizations expressed their deep concern “that the recent passage of the Communications Law in Ecuador has prompted observations of the Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Opinion, both the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States, Dr. Catalina Botero such as the United Nations, Dr. Frank La Rue “.

In that sense, asserted that these observations provide, in essence, that the said Law “violates international standards of protecting the fundamental human right to free expression and contains severe restrictions on the full enjoyment of this freedom essential for the establishment of a genuinely democratic society. “

In the letter, the signatories claim that “the advisory opinion could be decisive when awarding definitely Communications Act of Ecuador a legitimacy that is now in doubt.”

Among the signatories figure: the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Institute for Press and Society (IPYS), Public Space, the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA), Freedom House, Fundamedios, Pakistan Press Foundation, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression Cartoonists Rights Network International, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Center for Informative Reports on Guatemala, World Commission on Freedom of the Press, Digital Rights, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC ALC), Article 19, to name a few.

Access to the full letter

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